Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    Synopsis

    In this text, Saúl Yurkievich examines how Latin American art has been affected by its context, arguing that even as art becomes increasingly autonomous it is still a means of communication and as such must be considered in relationship to the society. In the first section of the text he considers the relationship between artistic forms and socio-economics in Latin America. He argues that there is a direct interplay between the economic and artistic development of any given country, and that as countries develop more rapidly there are less regional differences among their art. In the second section, he argues that the specificity of Latin American art is marginal at best. Beyond the most obvious thematic references or an abstract language alluding to Latin American culture, it is impossible to circumscribe Latin American art to a set of rules. Yurkievich does, however, note commonalities in the social context, such as the fact that the vast majority of Latin Americans experience the dramatic contradiction of experiencing a pre-modern way of life while mass media presents an image of life as modern. In the last section, he argues that the true innovators of Latin American art have been Diego Rivera, Emilio Pettoruti, and Joaquín Torres-García. Among other things, these avant-garde artists marked a new era of art in Latin America because they transformed lessons learned in Europe in order to reinvent new ways of making art in their respective Latin American contexts.

    Annotations

    The Argentinean poet and critic Saúl Yurkievich (1931-2005) spent much of his life teaching at universities in both France and the United States. His essay, “El arte de una sociedad en transformación” [“The Art of a Society in Transformation”] appeared in 1974 in a volume of critical essays about Latin American art edited by Damián Carlos Bayón (1915-95) as part of a series dedicated to Latin American culture published under the auspices of Siglo Veintiuno Editores (Buenos Aires, Madrid, and Mexico City) and Unesco (Paris). Yurkievich’s interest in using sociology to examine the relationship between art and society and to consider how artists participate in the social “codes” of everyday life suggests his in-depth involvement with French literary and linguistic theory. He also displays Marxist leanings in his analysis of how the economics of industry and globalization have created a situation in Latin America in which artists are often forced to live and work abroad, or depend on foreign interest to buoy their careers. Lastly, his interest in the dominant condition of the Latin American artist as one of exile and/or Diaspora not only reflects the history of twentieth-century Latin American art, but also the situation that many of his peers found themselves in during the 1970s and 80s.